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Perinatal mental health major strain on NHS finances

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Perinatal mental health costs £8 billion a year Perinatal mental health costs £8 billion a year

Over £8 billion is spent each year on mental health problems in mother and baby developed during the perinatal period, according to the University of Bristol.

In a day of lectures titled Begin Before Birth, professionals from a variety of healthcare specialities discussed the impact of factors such as preexisting mental health, mother's weight and domestic abuse on the mental and physical wellbeing of perinatal babies. The discussions took place at Imperial College, London on 8 June.

An opening speech from Dr Rebecca Pearson, who specialises in psychiatric epidemiology at the University of Bristol, detailed the effects of perinatal depression on a child over the course of their life. She indicated the most vulnerable children were those whose mothers had depression and had not benefitted from higher education.

Perinatal depression was linked by Dr Pearson to outcomes such as depression in adulthood, behavioural problems like ADHD and anti-social behaviour, as well as poor growth and obesity for children.

Longtime nurse, midwife and health visitor Judith Rees, of the Stefanou Foundation, appeared to detail her organisation's pre-birth project to work with pregnant women and their abusive partners to 'break the cycle' of domestic abuse.

Describing the voluntary programme, she said: 'This is not about breaking families up, it is about strengthening families to keep children and mothers safe and stop this timeline of abuse repeating itself.

'Children who experience adverse childhood events (ACEs) in the home are likely to be violent, antisocial and to drink and smoke.

'Beginning a constructive process before the child is born is key to making sure the behaviours of one generation are not passed on to the next.'

Mothers' obesity was also highlighted as a key contributor to perinatal and developmental difficulties by Professor Rebecca Reynolds of the Queen's Medical Research Institute in Edinburgh.

One in five women were found to be obese, leading to 25,200 additional C-sections per year. Nine recorded deaths of mothers were found by the institute to be a direct result of their obesity during pregnancy.

Discussions centred around 'sensitivity' for obese mothers, with Professor Reynolds encouraging healthcare staff to acknowledge the problem with them and guide them towards solutions 'for the benefit of their child and themselves'.

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